Letter: Safety on the track when the signalmen are on strike

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The Independent Online
Sir: Barrie Clement writes today (22 July) that Railtrack has instructed inexperienced managers to staff signal boxes or be suspended. This is wholly untrue. No manager has been suspended for refusing to carry out his duties - just one has been sent home because he refused to work as instructed.

Nor is there any question of managers working in signal boxes on strike days who are not competent to do so. Those supervisors and managers who assess the competence of signalmen and women to operate signal boxes are only able to do so if they themselves know and understand the routes that are operated.

There are strict guidelines which provide for managers working in new locations to have whatever time is necessary to familiarise themselves with the local instructions and working requirements of that box or panel. In addition, if a manager is not experienced at the location, a support manager is always available to oversee the signalling operation. As the Health and Safety Executive have already made clear, if a manager is judged competent to assess the work of staff in a particular signal box, then he or she is able to operate that box safely.

On Wednesday 20 July, HSE field inspectors visited working signal boxes throughout the country without having given prior notice. They were completely satisfied with the safety of the operations that they saw.

The RMT have searched for weeks for complaints of breaches of safety standards to try to damage public confidence in our railway operations. Not one of their complaints has been substantiated, and they are irresponsibly creating totally unnecessary concerns in the public mind. If they genuinely care about the well-being of the travelling public, it is time they negotiated on the fair offer Railtrack has made and ended this pointless and damaging strike.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN ELLIS

Director Production

Railtrack

London, WC1

22 July

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